Title: We Ride the Storm
Author: Devin Madson
Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Shelves: Female-fronted, female-authored
A solid fantasy with engaging characters, hints of magic, and violent twists, We Ride the Storm had a frustrating lack of answers, but it’s still a damned fine read.
Devin Madson tells her story through three POV characters, alternating between them in the early going, but then largely leaving one behind in the second half. Part of the reason why I liked this rather than loved it is the fact that it was my favorite character she neglected.
Princess Miko Ts’ai, a young woman trapped between a father’s tainted legacy and a stepfather’s ugly rule, is the first character we meet. She is a frustrating character, single-minded and courageous to the point of foolishness, but also incredibly naive for one who has grown up in such a tenuous situation. I liked her, and I loved the way here story arc developed, but I found her a hard character to pin down. The ways in which she’s learned the art of war while being ignored is perhaps the most interesting way in which the story explores the refreshing twist of a Princess, not a Prince, striving to seize power in a time of war.
The next POV character we meet is Captain Rah e’Torin of the Levanti horse tribes, a young man just as single-minded as naive as Miko. The world is changing around him, but he refuses to change with it. He’s one of those characters who would rather see his people die honoring their culture than live changed by the world. He is an admirable young man, one who remains true to his ideals no matter what the cost, and while there were more than a few moments where I had to applaud that passion, he was also somewhat tiresome. If he’d had more personality, some humor or potential for joy within his perpetually dour bearing, he might have been more interesting.
The last POV character we meet is Cassandra Marius, who was by far the most interesting of the lot. She’s a dangerous woman, using her role as a whore to get close to the men she’s hired to assassinate, but what makes her so intriguing is her connection to death. The dead call to her (in what way we’re never quite told), and she has a voice inside her head that constantly argues against her dark passions. She captivated me from her first chapter. I would have gladly read a novel all about her, or one where she is the only POV, but she’s sadly neglected in the second half, and we’re never given the answers we crave as to how/why the dead call to her, who that voice is, or just what she expects the mysterious Witchdoctor to do for her.
While he’s not a POV character, Dom Leo Villius is another character I wanted to see more of and know more about. Like Cassandra, this book left me with far too many questions about him for my liking. He has so much personality for a secondary character (his verbal sparring with Cassandra is fantastic), and the twists in his story are some of the most genuine in the book. He’s not comic relief, not by any stretch, but his every scene does breathe a little light and life into the story.
As for the plot, it was a solid story of cultures at war, empires at risk, and challenges for succession. I thoroughly enjoyed it, especially the ways in which schemes and plots threatened to topple empires from within, but I also struggled with the world building. We don’t see enough of Kisia to really understand it as an empire, and the potential of an Emperor past his prime and an Empress playing Lady Macbeth from the shadows is largely squandered. Similarly, the Chiltae seem more a race of people than a political force, and I struggled to understand where they stood and how they compared to Kisia. The bulk of the world building seems to go to the Levanti horse tribes, but I found them the least interesting and became bored with them.
Despite my frustrations, We Ride the Storm did end exceptionally strong, bringing together all of the plots and machinations to topple one empire while establishing a long-hinted new power. There are no great surprises there, no killer twists to leave the reader reeling, but it’s a satisfactory climax.
Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2
My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.